Not Great, Not ‘Impossible’

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Remember that kid – you know, that nerd who ran around your middle school singing the “Mission: Impossible” theme and pretending they were being stealthy, oblivious to the fact that everyone around them could, in fact, see them? Yeah, that was me. I thought the series had capped off at a trilogy, so when I saw that the series was going to have a fourth installment, I was as excited as I was the first time Ethan Hunt took off a mask for the first time.

I’ll admit that once I put some thought into the concept of yet another sequel to the “Mission: Impossible” series, I became skeptical; the way I see it, actors really shouldn’t do more action movies after a career choice like Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing Cruise in a fat suit and suspenders, rocking a comb over and dancing to Ludacris’ “Get Back.” I just see that as the kind of role an actor should use to nonverbally announce resignation from serious action roles. Suffice to say, I went into “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” with few expectations.

That said, my low expectations were somewhat exceeded by the film. The action scenes were great, and the sandstorm chase was particularly well done. My flashbacks of a repeat performance of “Mission: Impossible II” were dispelled by the film’s entertaining back and forth between characters. (Director Brad Bird should be thankful to John Woo. Nothing could be worse than the abomination that is “M:I-2.”)

Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn provides much of the comedic banter, and constant technological failure on his part keeps the humor up throughout most of the movie. Benji’s promotion from his role as IMF Technician in the series’ third installment to field agent is welcome, though Ving Rhames’ reprisal as Luther was sorely missed.

Paula Patton’s and Jeremy Renner’s portrayals as Agents Jane Carter and William Brandt, respectively, are serviceable –– Agent Brandt does well to add to the film’s comedy, often the straight man to some of Benji’s antics. Carter takes a more serious role and does well, but is nowhere near stellar. Neither Carter nor Brandt are innocent of cheesy backstories, as both are told in unwieldy ways. Agent Carter’s supposedly heartfelt voiceover comes off as clumsy, and Brandt’s revelation of one of the movie’s only real twists – something the first “Mission: Impossible” was prized on – is contrived and graceless. Renner’s acting provides some of the best moments in the film, but when he takes himself too seriously, I was reminded, horrified, at some of the bathos in “Mission: Impossible II.” (The entirety of the film is thankfully devoid of slow-motion fight scenes on the beach, but suffers the inclusion of a frisky Indian playboy.)

Though a lot of the film’s value is derived from trends set by previous films in the series, at a certain point, the trends become too much for the film to stand on its own. So much of the film is spent nodding to previous “Impossible” films that it becomes distracting, and though it is satisfying to see characters like Luther and Jules (Michelle Monaghan) return for cameos, there was just a little too much for my taste; about the time when the only mask in the movie is taken off (an entirely pointless addition), “Ghost Protocol” felt more like a throwback than an actual sequel.

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” certainly isn’t going to win any awards for creativity or originality, but it is still an entertaining addition to the series. Though he may be slightly past his time as an action hero, Tom Cruise’s reprisal as Ethan still works, and he pulls off the role much better than I thought he would. The film isn’t the best in the series, but I don’t think Cruise, Bird or anyone else really envisioned this as a reinvention of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. The film entertains. Isn’t that all we really want from a “Mission: Impossible” movie?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5